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Finally, the takeover is also a defensive move. Oracle did not want to let IBM get its hands on Java and Solaris, and felt it had to react to what looks more and more like a thorough restructuring of the computer industry. Since the early 1990s the industry has resembled a cake made of horizontal layers of technology, with each layer dominated by a few companies. Cisco, for instance, provided most of the networking gear. Sun and HP sold servers. Oracle was the leader in databases. IBM’s mainstay was services. SAP, a German giant, ruled in business software.
This structure is now collapsing as the industry’s heavyweights move into each other’s layers. HP bulked up its services division by buying EDS, for example, and has also moved more into networking. Cisco will soon start selling servers, and has formed an alliance with several smaller hardware and software firms to build, in effect, a data centre in a box. The industry is, in other words, going back to its past, when it was dominated by a few integrated companies that tried to do it all.